Felipe Nerio Espinosa was a member of the “Bloody Espinosa Gang.”
Felipe was born about 1836 in Vera Cruz, Mexico (some sources indicate he was born in what is now Rio Arriba County, New Mexico). During the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), he was a child and witnessed six family member’s deaths when The U.S. Navy shelled Vera Cruz. Somewhere along the line, he and his brother, Jose Vivian Espinosa, along with several cousins, migrated to Colorado, where the embittered Mexicans began a reign of terror. In 1863, they killed more than 30 pioneers in an extremely brutal fashion by their own admission. According to local legend, Espinosa claimed to have had a vision from the Virgin Mary telling him to kill 100 anglos for every member of his family lost during the Mexican-American War.
Hotly pursued by lawmen, Espinosa sent a letter to Governor John Evans, threatening to kill 600 “Gringos,” including the governor, if he and the other gang members were not granted amnesty and some 5,000 acres in Conejos County, Colorado. The Governor soon called upon the U.S. Army to help track down the murderers in 1863. The soldiers then called upon frontiersman, Tom Tobin, to use his tracking skills to find them and bring them in dead or alive.
In September, Tobin was successful and brought the heads of Felipe and his cousin, Julian Espinosa, in a bag to Fort Garland, Colorado. Though Tobin was supposed to receive a $2,500 reward for their deaths, he received only $1,500.